Unlikely pair pushes for transparency in medical pricing in Colorado

9NEWS at 6 p.m. 1/27/17.

DENVER - She’s a socially conscious liberal.  He’s a fiscally responsible conservative. They might not agree on much this legislative session, but right now Senator Irene Aguilar (D-Denver) and Senator Kevin Lundberg (R-Bethoud) agree on this: heath care providers need to do more to provide transparency of cost to patients.

It’s why they’ve introduced Senate Bill 17-065, otherwise known as the “Transparency in Health Care Prices Act.”

“It’ll change the mindset of people.  That’s what we’re trying to do with this legislation,” explained Se. Lundberg.

To be honest, it’s not going to change an awful lot when it comes to what hospitals do.  Already chains like Centura and HealthONE Colorado provide estimates of direct pay payments for a variety of treatments and procedures.

It’s probably one of the reasons why the Colorado Hospital Association was so quick to endorse the legislation. The bill would, among other things, standardize public reporting requirements for health care providers when it comes to posting charges for patients willing to pay directly as opposed to using a third-party payer (like insurance) to pick up or negotiate part of the bill.

It’s sometimes referred to as the “cash-pay” rate.

But Sen. Agular, a one-time proponent of a single-payer system in Colorado, believes it will change a faltering status quo.

“I think, sadly, you can call two different providers right now and either get no price at all from them or, if you do get a price, they vary by a magnitude or 30 or 50,” she said.

The bill would require providers to publicly post costs for many of their most common procedures.  

“So, you put this in place, and I guarantee you both hospital A and hospital B will be looking at these numbers and start asking themselves, ‘Are we doing this right?’” said Sen. Lundberg.

Thursday, the bill sailed through its first test in a Senate committee.  It heads to the floor of the Colorado Senate next.

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